Whispering of the Autumn Leaves is the upcoming fifth book by C. W. Schultz. It is an epistolary novel told from the perspectives of several different characters, who unwittingly cause or witness events that lead to an impending global war.
Schultz announced a first-person narrative called The Fall of Peacetime in a post on July 8, 2017, describing it as a medieval fantasy which meshes with the sub-horror genres of his previous books, satisfying longtime readers while also expanding to a new audience. The length of the manuscript had fluctuated between 142,000 and 170,000 words, his longest work yet; with Jill in second, at 105,000 words.
As of April 2018, the novel has been re-titled Whispering of the Autumn Leaves. There’s currently no official release date, with Schultz posting that one potential publisher had to drop out due to their other releases being pushed back, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On December 30, 2018, a sample chapter and an accompanying video (narrated by Schultz) was released. The date was specifically chosen by Schultz as the 1,209th day since A Book About a Film‘s released, as this time span marked the longest he had ever gone without publishing a novel, and wanted to do something special for his valued readers.
Video – Narrated by C. W. Schultz
Chapter 3 – The Andles A
A public service article published in the 1231 issue, titled “The Psalterist and the Shawmist”
Monsters have always lurked in the Royal Forest, a vast wooded area crossing into the regions of Denland, Everdirk and Wist Vondorian. It was a story to teach children not to wander far, or help them visualize the unknown evils of the world. Now, however, it appears some of the monsters have emerged from the Royal Forest to kidnap the children.
Within the last few cycles, the amount of missing children has increased. Reports stretch from the Royal Forest’s nearby farmlands like Naidney, all the way into the northern side of Denregal, particularly the Roachill district. Some believe there are hexminors turning children into red-crested jays, the black bird with a flame-red crest. However, these birds aren’t seen nearly as frequently as the rate of disappearing children, thus debunking this theory.
Two men were spotted emerging out of the Royal Forest. One was described as fat and balding, while the other was said to be thin and covered in locks of blond hair. The former cradles the bulky harp instrument of a psaltery; while the other carries the slender flute instrument of a shawm. They’ve been dubbed the Psalterist and the Shawmist. Both tall in stature, their footsteps make for long strides, explaining why witnesses have had difficulty chasing them down when they see a child in their company.
The sound of music can be heard as the Shawmist leads the child back into the Royal Forest’s border of black pine trees, which are so tall, they reach into the clouds on a rainy day. The Psalterist waddles behind his partner-in-crime and their young captive, ensuring the child doesn’t escape the musical trance.
Days later, the child is found in the farmlands, identified only by the clothes he or she was last seen wearing. All that is left is a dry skeleton, as if the child had been dead for decades. Skin and all organs are completely gone, and the bone is as clean as polished ivory.
People believe a witch lives in the Royal Forest, and they named her Ryla Bao. The name comes from the Mirean language the villagers in Naidney use, which is directly translated to Evil-Eyed Lady; “ryl-” meaning “eye”, “-a” meaning feminine, and “bao” meaning “evil”. They say she’s centuries old, and uses black magic to allow the children’s skin and organs to prolong her youth. The younger the child is, the longer it takes her to age again. The Psalterist and the Shawmist are her warlocks, commanded to retrieve her sacrifices.
Many expeditions have been organized in an attempt to save children seen leaving with the warlocks. However, these same expeditions are usually soon abandoned, with the child’s skeleton always turning up days later. While in the Royal Forest, people who have survived the expedition claim to experience spirits speaking to them, as well as strange disorientations that causes nausea and euphoria at the same time. These disorientations greatly affect the sense of direction, resulting in parties traveling in complete circles; as well as a sense of time being paralyzed, with nights seeming to last as quickly as a few minutes or as long as several days. Beasts in the Royal Forest also show signs of ravenousness, with bears, unisaurs and wolves oft attacking and killing members of the search party. The probability of being attacked by an exceptionally aggressive beast has led many to conclude that entry to the Royal Forest is equal to certain death. When King Three of Johnamas Hollied introduced the punishment of Banishment to the Royal Forest back in 978, he had heard the stories of these aggressive animals. Now, with a witch and two warlocks emerging from the haunted woods, the probability of survival lessens and the punishment of Banishment to the Royal Forest is ever crueler.
Because the child’s body usually turns up in the farmlands while the expedition is still in place, horrific bewilderment arises by how the body is discarded without the Psalterist and the Shawmist’s reemergence being noticed. Theories have included an invisibility spell, teleportation or that the children are being led into the Royal Forest and exited through a different path as a diversion. If the entrance to the Royal Forest is just an elaborate distraction, there are plenty of barns and small castles between Naidney and Denregal that the children can be easily taken to. In other words, the Psalterist and the Shawmist might not be just warlocks, they could your neighbor.